Based in East Flanders, Koninglijke Sporting Club Lokeren Oost-Vlaanderen are enjoying their best spell in nearly a century of football history. Two cup wins in four years, including a narrow win over Waregem in 2014, have brought European football to this pretty little town of 40,000.
Lokeren stands between Ghent and Lierse, with Beveren, Mechelen and Bruges also close by – Flanders is a groundhopper’s dream.
KSC Lokeren OV, referred to by all as Sporting, have represented Lokeren in various guises since 1923.
The most recent amalgamation came in 2000, when Sporting merged with Sint-Niklaas 20km away. Created in 1920 as FC Beerschot, Sint-Niklaas enjoyed two seasons of top-flight football after World War II but soon descended into the lower reaches of the Belgian league.
Sporting’s stadium is located close to the village of Daknam, north of Lokeren, surrounded by greenery and a lake. This is Belgian football at its most rustic.
If taking the Eurostar or flying into Brussels, infrequent direct trains to Lokeren from Brussels Midi Station take 1hr, frequent ones via Ghent St-Pieters or Antwerp-Berchem 1hr 20min, about €8 single. By adding ‘Any Belgian Station’ when booking their destination, Eurostar passengers can travel via Brussels for free.
Local buses await in the forecourt of Lokeren station, less than 1km from the focal square of Markt and the town centre. Tickets (€1.20) are available from the station office or on board (€2).
Loker Taxi VOF (+32 9 279 19 19) is based halfway between the station and the stadium and takes credit cards.
There are few accommodation options in Lokeren itself. The nearest lodgings to the stadium is the B&B De Zeeldraaier (Brouwerijstraat 7, +32 9 339 0075), behind the station, towards the ground. A pretty guesthouse run by a friendly local couple, it comprises one large apartment that sleeps six.
The only hotel in the town centre is La Barakka, closed late August and early September. It contains single and double rooms, and its own restaurant.
For the many accommodation options in Ghent, 30km away, see the local tourist office database.
Bars line Lokeren’s main square of Markt. There you’ll find the local fans’ hangout of Den Barie’s (No.30), with its Sporting paraphernalia and terrace in summer. Opposite, Den Bokser is another sports haunt with quality beers. Alongside, Het Pleintje is more trendy and restaurant-like but still with a prime main-square location.
Nearby, the Stadscafé Oud Lokeren (Markt 72) is an age-old landmark tavern with displays of Lokeren line-ups from the early 1970s and archive photos of war-time liberation.
For character and a superb range of beers, former Den Overkant, now the Café Flanders (Pr.Thuysbaertlaan 5) is set between Markt and the station.